The Georgetown University Student Association senate is considering proposals to abolish the GUSA Fund, which reallocates part of the student activities fee to clubs requesting additional funding.
The GUSA Fund is intended to provide ad hoc funding for university-recognized clubs and organizations seeking to fund activities and events. The fund reallocates thousands of dollars from the student activities fee to student organizations who fill out a request form throughout the year as they need funding, according to the GUSA website. The fund’s resources are determined by the GUSA executive’s discretionary funds, which change annually based on finance and appropriations committee deliberations.
But the fund has historically failed to fulfill its original mission and misappropriated funds, according to GUSA senators seeking to abolish it.
The GUSA Fund has facilitated funding for student groups who did not receive money from the Student Activities Commission for rightful disciplinary or logistic reasons, according to Harrison Nugent (SFS ’20), who was elected the new GUSA senate transition finance and appropriation chair in a 10-to-7 vote at the weekly GUSA meeting this Sunday.
“In previous years, the account has been mismanaged by the executive and has been used as a workaround to SAC for clubs that are either on probation or should be going through new club development,” Nugent wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The GUSA FinApp committee, composed of 12 senators, annually allocates the student activities fee to the GUSA executive and other groups including six advisory boards — like the SAC — Georgetown Program Board, the Georgetown University Lecture Fund and other applicants.
Five students appointed by the GUSA executive and approved by the GUSA senate govern the GUSA Fund. The fund stipulates minimum levels of funding for diversity-related events, civic engagement and the arts. However, the majority of the fund is unassigned, allowing for discretion by the committee throughout the year, according to the GUSA website.
GUSA President Norman Francis Jr. (COL ’20) and Vice President Aleida Olvera (COL ’20) oppose abolishing the GUSA Fund because the majority of organizations served by the fund last year catered to women and minority student organizations, according to Olvera.
“Norman and I believe that abolishing GUSA Fund is a direct attack on student groups who serve underrepresented populations, since they make up the majority of GUSA Fund’s recipients,” Olvera wrote in an email to The Hoya. “GUSA is meant to serve all students, and it disappoints us that they would want to take this opportunity away from communities that are already lacking in proper resources.”
But the fund has failed to provide all student groups the support they need and should reallocate the resources to clubs directly, rather than through GUSA Fund, according to Nugent.
“I believe that it is our duty as senators to represent student interests above our own, and the money that will be saved by abolishing GUSA Fund will ultimately be reallocated to the student clubs we know and love,” Nugent wrote.
Former Transition FinApp Chair Matthew Buckwald (COL ’20), whose resignation from his position in the senate was announced Aug. 30, formally introduced legislation to amend the GUSA bylaws to abolish the GUSA Fund on Aug. 29.
“The GUSA Finance & Appropriations committee is tasked with ensuring that student funds are responsibly appropriated to enhance student activities,” the act said. “The GUSA Fund has not sufficiently provided responsible monetary support to student activities.”
The conversation around the GUSA Fund’s abolition has been ongoing for years but has been especially prominent in recent months, according to Senator Samuel Dubke (SFS ’21), who ran against Nugent for transition FinApp chair.
While the fund’s many flaws should be addressed, its principles should be preserved and reformed, according to Dubke.
“In the past, this fund has been misused, by providing money to groups that did not need it, and by lacking clear regulations or oversight,” Dubke wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Nevertheless, the core value behind GUSA Fund – that we should be able to help those organizations that slip through the cracks of advisory boards’ stringent regulations – remains relevant.”
Though the GUSA Fund members are officially approved by the executive branch, the senate should increase their attention to the fund, according to Dubke.
“The Senate, which has allocated millions of dollars for years through the Finance and Appropriations Committee, should have much greater oversight over GUSA Fund,” Dubke wrote. “The fund’s charter should be rewritten, and new, reformed-minded leadership should take over.”
The GUSA senate intends to vote on the GUSA Fund’s proposed abolition in upcoming meetings, according to Nugent. If the senate does pass a proposal to abolish the fund in coming weeks, the executive will challenge the legislation, according to Olvera.
“I’m not sure why this is a controversial/divisive issue within GUSA, but if the Senate were to advocate for the abolishment of this fund Norman and I are prepared to fight against it,” Olvera wrote.
Hoya Staff Writer Riley Rogerson contributed reporting.